One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Bob Rotella’s book, “How Champions Think.” The quote reads:
“We can choose to believe in ourselves, and thus to strive, to risk, to persevere, and to achieve. Or we can choose to cling to security and mediocrity.”
Read it again and read it slowly. Dr. Rotella is emphasizing that your mind can be trained like a muscle and that the strength of your mind lies at the foundation of any journey to seek personal achievement and success.
Depending on my circumstances, the context of this quote takes on new meanings, but I always gravitate to the same word: “choose.” Believing in yourself is a training process and always a continual choice.
Let’s start with believing in yourself as a process.
As children, we’re often told that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to; We can be whatever we want when we grow up, so long as we work hard and believe in ourselves. However, somewhere along the path to adulthood, self-doubt creeps in. Things that once seemed so simple start to lose their simplicity. When the weight of life starts to get heavier, we begin questioning our abilities because of a fear of failure and are frequently stunted by the “what if’s” of life (and lifting.)
Through experience and largely through my constant struggles for personal breakthroughs in weightlifting plateaus, I have come to believe in the notion that if you wish to go beyond the ordinary, you must begin to retrain and strengthen your mind. The first step in doing this is to shift to a positive, self-affirming mindset. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Rather than thinking in terms of “if,” we must begin to think in “whens.”
WHEN I put in the work, WHEN I PR my back squat, WHEN I push myself past my perceived limits.
Leave no room for self-doubt to hinder you. When we allow doubt to influence us, we invent excuses that prevent us from maximizing our abilities. Push forward despite any doubt, choosing to believe that you will overcome it.
Your mind is as powerful as any muscle in your body and maybe more so. You have the power to construct your own self-image. And that self-image largely determines what you achieve and become.
Let me pose a question. Do you think athletes like LeBron James or Serena Williams started believing in themselves after they became iconic champions, transcending their respective sports? After they had won, time after time? Or do you think they actively chose to believe in themselves and their abilities every day before then?
Exceptional people choose to think about themselves in ways that breed success.
You may ask: “So, where do I start?” I’ve outlined a few practices below that have helped me along my path to stronger self-affirmation:
1. Fill your day with positive self-talk. Take advantage of the times that may be slow or quiet, like when you’re in the shower or on your commute to work, and reflect on the tasks you have accomplished so far and what you wish to accomplish for the remainder of the day. These don’t have to be big things, but rather, something as simple as, “Nice job hitting your macros for breakfast,” or “I’m going to really focus on finishing my extension tonight.”
2. Add visualization practice into your nightly routine. When laying in bed at night before you fall asleep, instead of thinking about how busy of a day you have tomorrow, see yourself accomplishing your goals. Visualize yourself claiming that snatch PR or hitting a faster time on a benchmark workout. As with everything, start small. For the first week, devote just a few minutes a night to this task. Expect that you will lose focus and have to start over. The mind wanders, and that’s okay. However, as you get better at it, start adding in more detail. How the knurling feels on your hands. The way the bar sounds when it makes contact with your body. The rush of adrenalin you get when you feel the plates lift off from the ground. And that feeling of accomplishment when you drop the bar, knowing all of the work you put in lead to this moment. Believe it. See it. Do it.
3. Outline your goals inside and outside of the gym, and identify one doable task you can complete on a routine basis that brings you closer to achieving them. Knowing that you’re doing something each day to actively work towards your goals and invest in yourself can drastically improve confidence and overall self-image.
Believing in yourself does not mean avoiding self-doubt or failure. That’s part of the training. Inherent in the journey is acknowledging that there will be setbacks, and there will be frustrations. But by training your mind to be resilient and trusting in all the effort you have put in, something great will surely manifest. Just think about where this kind of strength can take you.
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